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Denver Police Chief: ‘Crime Has Not Been Quarantined During this COVID-19 Crisis’

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered life in many ways, but one thing that continues is gun violence. Many violence prevention workers are still working to stop gun violence in Denver — despite challenges from social distancing restrictions. GRASPAt-Risk Intervention Mentoring (AIM), and Denver Public Safety Youth Services have been working to find ways to continue their life-saving work virtually without the benefit of the usual hospital visits, immediate contact, and physical presence in the lives of the youth they work with. 

“Unfortunately, crime has not been quarantined during this COVID-19 crisis,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said during a recent meeting on youth violence prevention. 

Since Denver’s stay-at-home order took effect, 171 aggravated assaults involving a gun have been reported, compared to 110 during the same time frame last year. Gun murders also increased during that time period, according to Guns & America’s reporting. 

“These are gun crimes. Serious crimes where we’ve actually seen some spikes… It is impacting our communities of color,” Pazen said during the recent meeting.

Every year, over 750 people die by guns in Colorado. In the last decade, gun deaths have increased 31 percent, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide. Black people in Colorado are seven times as likely to die by gun homicide than their white counterparts.

The long-term impacts of the pandemic and social distancing on gun violence are still to be seen, but one thing is clear: the continuing public health crisis of gun violence puts further strain on a medical system struggling to keep up with incoming COVID-19 cases.

Research has shown that community-based gun violence prevention and intervention programs are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries in communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. As the shootings continue, local intervention programs have proven to be essential, and workers have adapted their strategies in recent times to continue helping their communities hit hardest by gun violence. It’s imperative these programs continue to receive support to prevent gun violence.   

Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns released guidance for mayors on ways to prevent gun violence amid the coronavirus crisis – including supporting the essential work of community gun violence intervention programs so that necessary outreach and services can continue uninterrupted.

In addition to gun violence happening in cities, there has been an increase in domestic violence risk. Meanwhile, suicide prevention hotlines are seeing an uptick in calls, and with more kids and teens at home, unsecured guns are raising concerns about increases in unintentional shootings and gun suicides.  

Statistics about gun violence in Colorado are available here, and information on how Colorado’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.